(A mailed-in letter to Judge Jasvender Kaur following her May 2015 ruling on Amos Yee; it was also posted on TOC at or about the same time.)
Honorable Judge Kaur:
Setting a precedent for ‘Hebdo-ization’ in Singapore?
In January 2015, the French satirical lampooner magazine, Charlie Hebdo, was violently set upon by religious fanatics, furious over the ‘Hebdo-ization’ of their sacrosanct Prophet. And in May 2015, a District Judge here found Amos Yee guilty of disseminating obscenity on the Internet.
According to the good Judge, his one obscene commission has the effect to ‘deprave and corrupt’ young viewers on the Net in Singapore. And that was attributed to a single cartoony illustration Amos uploaded on the Internet, depicting both late SM Lee and Baroness Thatcher in a ludicrous, sexually compromising position — doggy style to be precise. Any reasonable member in the community would have to wonder, in good conscience, if Amos Yee’s obscenity conviction was really about obscenity as charged or about the ‘Hebdo-ization’ of the late SM Lee.
From beyond looking on, SM Lee would doubtless be mortified to be accorded such sacrosanctity on a par with some holy religious figure. Are we here heading down the slippery slope towards criminalization of even such cheeky yet innocuous caricature? I surely hope not.
Hard cases make bad law. To begin with, Amos’ charges were neither fish nor fowl. To be sure, the teenager was guilty of running his mouth off with vile expletives, shenanigans of which should have been duly dealt with in juvenile family court. Unfortunately, in this instance, the AG office overreacted and overcharged the 16-year-old. It ended up putting the Court in a state of cognitive dissonance over the fitness of sentence for the maiden crimes Amos purportedly committed.
Coda: I chose to omit mentioning the second criminal guilty finding which concerns his ruffling of communal religious tranquility. I did that for the simple reason that any hired appellate legal beagle worth his/her salt would be chomping at the bit for action — the stuff of ready-made appellate reversal that would only be anticipated with glee.
Sincerely, Lester Kok
(March 26, 2017, from TOC, The Online Citizen)